Banning Teacher Strikes in Oregon Isn’t the Answer

With negotiations heating up across the state, students and staff alike are fearful for what comes next

Students in Portland returned to school on Monday, Nov. 27 after nearly four weeks out of the classroom thanks to strikes throughout the district. Although things may be returning to a somewhat normal routine for schools in Portland, other teachers in districts around the state are on the cusp of repeating the same strike process. Among those is the Bend-La Pine School District (BLPS); teachers, tired of less-than-ideal working conditions, assemble around town after school, signs in hand. They too are fed up, and if change doesn’t happen soon, district resistance may worsen.

Currently, the district’s teacher union, the Bend Education Association (BEA), is in the process of negotiating with the districts, which began last summer. Topics the BEA would like to change for the upcoming year include reducing classroom sizes and raising salaries to account for inflation, among others. 

“We’re reaching more tentative agreements. We’re having better conversations at the table,” BEA President Sarah Barclay stated in an article for KTVZ. “I think both parties are understanding each other’s needs, and that’s making for reaching agreements.”

In a perfect world, the building tension between the BEA and BLPS won’t cause the situation to boil over. Strikes aren’t a desired end for anyone, teachers and students alike. Cutting school for what could be months would severely delay learning in all age groups, significantly affecting elementary and early middle schoolers. Even a few short weeks out of the classroom would be devastating.

We’ve seen this sort of issue before; the pandemic spanned two years and stunted an entire generation of students. Students who were in elementary school are found to have experienced severe declines in academic performance, an Education Week article found. While this issue manifests on a smaller scale following a strike, any time out of the classroom could only have a negative effect.

To combat demonstrations like the one in Portland occurring in the future, Republicans in the Oregon legislature have introduced legislation that would ban teachers from striking, mimicking laws in 37 states across the country.

Still, getting rid of strikes as a whole is not the solution. Both teachers and government officials are aware of the fact that strikes aren’t ideal in any situation and should be avoided at all costs. They are a last resort, not an immediate solution. If this bargaining tool is taken away, who can say what could happen in the future? States that have banned strikes, like Nevada, fine teachers up to $50,000 a day for striking. For small-town unions, spending this money just isn’t feasible. Therefore, striking to improve issues isn’t a possibility for those districts, effectively leaving them without any bartering tools.

Without strikes, teachers aren’t able to barter for often basic necessities, such as student access funding and a reasonable wage adjustment. The number-one reason causing teachers across the country to leave the profession is a lack of proper compensation, a study by Devlin Peck found. If teachers in Oregon cannot argue for proper salaries—one of the main concerns of union-district negotiations—who’s to say how many we might lose, and what future repercussions this could have? For now, all that students, parents and teachers across Oregon can hope for is that we don’t have to reach the point of strike at all.


  • Lina McDonald

    Lina McDonald was born with a sword in her hand and a weight on her foot. Cue a sixteen-year training montage, complete with exploding volcanoes, murderous sharks and a shirtless Brad Pitt. You want to add an oxford comma? Don’t even run–because you’re not getting away in time. Lina can outrun a bear. Make sure to breathe evenly: even asthma can give you away.

    View all posts